Captains of Industry - or, Men of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money
by James Parton
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse








BOSTON HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY New York: 11 East Seventeenth Street The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1890

Copyright, 1884, By JAMES PARTON.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A. Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.


In this volume are presented examples of men who shed lustre upon ordinary pursuits, either by the superior manner in which they exercised them or by the noble use they made of the leisure which success in them usually gives. Such men are the nobility of republics. The American people were fortunate in having at an early period an ideal man of this kind in Benjamin Franklin, who, at the age of forty-two, just mid-way in his life, deliberately relinquished the most profitable business of its kind in the colonies for the sole purpose of developing electrical science. In this, as in other respects, his example has had great influence with his countrymen.

A distinguished author, who lived some years at Newport, has expressed the opinion that the men who occupy the villas of that emerald isle exert very little power compared with that of an orator or a writer. To be, he adds, at the head of a normal school, or to be a professor in a college, is to have a sway over the destinies of America which reduces to nothingness the power of successful men of business.

Being myself a member of the fraternity of writers, I suppose I ought to yield a joyful assent to such remarks. It is flattering to the self-love of those who drive along Bellevue Avenue in a shabby hired vehicle to be told that they are personages of much more consequence than the heavy capitalist who swings by in a resplendent curricle, drawn by two matched and matchless steeds, in a six-hundred dollar harness. Perhaps they are. But I advise young men who aspire to serve their generation effectively not to undervalue the importance of the gentleman in the curricle.

One of the individuals who has figured lately in the society of Newport is the proprietor of an important newspaper. He is not a writer, nor a teacher in a normal school, but he wields a considerable power in this country. Fifty men write for the journal which he conducts, some of whom write to admiration, for they are animated by a humane and patriotic spirit. The late lamented Ivory Chamberlain was a writer whose leading editorials were of national value. But, mark: a telegram of ten words from that young man at Newport, written with perspiring hand in a pause of the game of polo, determines without appeal the course of the paper in any crisis of business or politics.

I do not complain of this arrangement of things. I think it is just; I know it is unalterable.

It is then of the greatest possible importance that the men who control during their lifetime, and create endowments when they are dead, should share the best civilization of their age and country. It is also of the greatest importance that young men whom nature has fitted to be leaders should, at the beginning of life, take to the steep and thorny path which leads at length to mastership.

Most of these chapters were published originally in "The Ledger" of New York, and a few of them in "The Youths' Companion" of Boston, the largest two circulations in the country. I have occasionally had reason to think that they were of some service to young readers, and I may add that they represent more labor and research than would be naturally supposed from their brevity. Perhaps in this new form they may reach and influence the minds of future leaders in the great and growing realm of business. I should pity any young man who could read the briefest account of what has been done in manufacturing towns by such men as John Smedley and Robert Owen without forming a secret resolve to do something similar if ever he should win the opportunity.


PAGE David Maydole, Hammer-Maker 9

Ichabod Washburn, Wire-Maker 18

Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith 27

Michael Reynolds, Engine-Driver 36

Major Robert Pike, Farmer 43

George Graham, Clock-Maker, buried in Westminster Abbey 51

John Harrison, Exquisite Watch-Maker 58

Peter Faneuil, and the Great Hall he built 65

Chauncey Jerome, Yankee Clock-Maker 79

Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest, Pioneer 89

Israel Putnam, Farmer 96

George Flower, Pioneer 104

Edward Coles, Noblest of the Pioneers, and his Great Speech 117

Peter H. Burnett, Banker 126

Gerrit Smith 133

Peter Force, Printer 140

John Bromfield, Merchant 148

Frederick Tudor, Ice Exporter 156

Myron Holley, Market-Gardener 163

The Founders of Lowell 170

Robert Owen, Cotton-Manufacturer 180

John Smedley, Stocking-Manufacturer 188

Richard Cobden, Calico Printer 195

Henry Bessemer 206

John Bright, Manufacturer 212

Thomas Edward, Cobbler and Naturalist 224

Robert Dick, Baker and Naturalist 232

John Duncan, Weaver and Botanist 240

James Lackington, Second-Hand Bookseller 247

Horace Greeley's Start 254

James Gordon Bennett, and how he founded his "Herald" 264

Three John Walters, and their Newspaper 275

George Hope 288

Sir Henry Cole 294

Charles Summers 300

William B. Astor, House-Owner 307

Peter Cooper 313

Paris-Duverney, French Financier 332

Sir Rowland Hill 342

Marie-Antoine Careme, French Cook 349

Wonderful Walker, Parson of all Work 355

Sir Christopher Wren 363

Sir John Rennie, Engineer 372

Sir Moses Montefiore 379

Marquis of Worcester, Inventor of the Steam-Engine 385

An Old Dry-Goods Merchant's Recollections 392













When a young man begins to think of making his fortune, his first notion usually is to go away from home to some very distant place. At present, the favorite spot is Colorado; awhile ago it was California; and old men remember when Buffalo was about as far west as the most enterprising person thought of venturing.

It is not always a foolish thing to go out into the world far beyond the parent nest, as the young birds do in midsummer. But I can tell you, boys, from actual inquiry, that a great number of the most important and famous business men of the United States struck down roots where they were first planted, and where no one supposed there was room or chance for any large thing to grow.

I will tell you a story of one of these men, as I heard it from his own lips some time ago, in a beautiful village where I lectured.

He was an old man then; and a curious thing about him was that, although he was too deaf to hear one word of a public address, even of the loudest speaker, he not only attended church every Sunday, but was rarely absent when a lecture was delivered.

While I was performing on that occasion, I saw him sitting just in front of the platform, sleeping the sleep of the just till the last word was uttered.

Upon being introduced to this old gentleman in his office, and learning that his business was to make hammers, I was at a loss for a subject of conversation, as it never occurred to me that there was anything to be said about hammers.

I have generally possessed a hammer, and frequently inflicted damage on my fingers therewith, but I had supposed that a hammer was simply a hammer, and that hammers were very much alike. At last I said,—

"And here you make hammers for mankind, Mr. Maydole?"

You may have noticed the name of David Maydole upon hammers. He is the man.

"Yes," said he, "I have made hammers here for twenty-eight years."

"Well, then," said I, shouting in his best ear, "by this time you ought to be able to make a pretty good hammer."

"No, I can't," was his reply. "I can't make a pretty good hammer. I make the best hammer that's made."

That was strong language. I thought, at first, he meant it as a joke; but I soon found it was no joke at all.

He had made hammers the study of his lifetime, and, after many years of thoughtful and laborious experiment, he had actually produced an article, to which, with all his knowledge and experience, he could suggest no improvement.

I was astonished to discover how many points there are about an instrument which I had always supposed a very simple thing. I was surprised to learn in how many ways a hammer can be bad.

But, first, let me tell you how he came to think of hammers.

There he was, forty years ago, in a small village of the State of New York; no railroad yet, and even the Erie Canal many miles distant. He was the village blacksmith, his establishment consisting of himself and a boy to blow the bellows.

He was a good deal troubled with his hammers. Sometimes the heads would fly off. If the metal was too soft, the hammer would spread out and wear away; if it was too hard, it would split.

At that time blacksmiths made their own hammers, and he knew very little about mixing ores so as to produce the toughest iron. But he was particularly troubled with the hammer getting off the handle, a mishap which could be dangerous as well as inconvenient.

At this point of his narrative the old gentleman showed a number of old hammers, such as were in use before he began to improve the instrument; and it was plain that men had tried very hard before him to overcome this difficulty.

One hammer had an iron rod running down through the handle with a nut screwed on at the end. Another was wholly composed of iron, the head and handle being all of one piece. There were various other devices, some of which were exceedingly clumsy and awkward.

At last, he hit upon an improvement which led to his being able to put a hammer upon a handle in such a way that it would stay there. He made what is called an adze-handled hammer, the head being attached to the handle after the manner of an adze.

The improvement consists in merely making a longer hole for the handle to go into, by which device it has a much firmer hold of the head, and can easily be made extremely tight.

With this improvement, if the handle is well seasoned and well wedged, there is no danger of the head flying off. He made some other changes, all of them merely for his own convenience, without a thought of going into the manufacture of hammers.

The neighborhood in which he lived would have scarcely required half a dozen new hammers per annum. But one day there came to the village six carpenters to work upon a new church, and one of these men, having left his hammer at home, came to David Maydole's blacksmith's shop to get one made.

"Make me as good a hammer," said the carpenter, "as you know how."

That was touching David upon a tender place.

"As good a one as I know how?" said he. "But perhaps you don't want to pay for as good a one as I know how to make."

"Yes, I do," replied the man; "I want a good hammer."

The blacksmith made him one of his best. It was probably the best hammer that had ever been made in the world, since it contained two or three important improvements never before combined in the instrument.

The carpenter was delighted with it, and showed it, with a good deal of exultation, to his five companions; every man of whom came the next day to the shop and wanted one just like it. They did not understand all the blacksmith's notions about tempering and mixing the metals, but they saw at a glance that the head and the handle were so united that there never was likely to be any divorce between them.

To a carpenter building a wooden house, the mere removal of that one defect was a boon beyond price; he could hammer away with confidence, and without fear of seeing the head of his hammer leap into the next field, unless stopped by a comrade's head.

When all the six carpenters had been supplied with these improved hammers, the contractor came and ordered two more. He seemed to think, and, in fact, said as much, that the blacksmith ought to make his hammers a little better than those he had made for the men.

"I can't make any better ones," said honest David. "When I make a thing, I make it as well as I can, no matter who it's for."

Soon after, the store-keeper of the village, seeing what excellent hammers these were, gave the blacksmith a magnificent order for two dozen, which, in due time, were placed upon his counter for sale.

At this time something happened to David Maydole which may fairly be called good luck; and you will generally notice events of the kind in the lives of meritorious men. "Fortune favors the brave," is an old saying, and good luck in business is very apt to befall the man who could do very well without it.

It so happened that a New York dealer in tools, named Wood, whose store is still kept in Chatham Street, New York, happened to be in the village getting orders for tools. As soon as his eye fell upon those hammers, he saw their merits, and bought them all. He did more. He left a standing order for as many hammers of that kind as David Maydole could make.

That was the beginning. The young blacksmith hired a man or two, then more men, and made more hammers, and kept on making hammers during the whole of his active life, employing at last a hundred and fifteen men.

During the first twenty years, he was frequently experimenting with a view to improve the hammer. He discovered just the best combination of ores to make his hammers hard enough, without being too hard.

He gradually found out precisely the best form of every part. There is not a turn or curve about either the handle or the head which has not been patiently considered, and reconsidered, and considered again, until no further improvement seemed possible. Every handle is seasoned three years, or until there is no shrink left in it.

Perhaps the most important discovery which he made was that a perfect tool cannot be made by machinery.

Naturally, his first thought, when he found his business increasing, was to apply machinery to the manufacture, and for some years several parts of the process were thus performed. Gradually, his machines were discarded, and for many years before his retirement, every portion of the work was done by hand.

Each hammer is hammered out from a piece of iron, and is tempered over a slow charcoal fire, under the inspection of an experienced man. He looks as though he were cooking his hammers on a charcoal furnace, and he watches them until the process is complete, as a cook watches mutton chops.

I heard some curious things about the management of this business. The founder never did anything to "push" it. He never advertised. He never reduced the price of his hammers because other manufacturers were doing so.

His only care, he said, had been to make a perfect hammer, to make just as many of them as people wanted, and no more, and to sell them at a fair price. If people did not want his hammers, he did not want to make them. If they did not want to pay what they were worth, they were welcome to buy cheaper ones of some one else.

For his own part, his wants were few, and he was ready at any time to go back to his blacksmith's shop.

The old gentleman concluded his interesting narration by making me a present of one of his hammers, which I now cherish among my treasures.

If it had been a picture, I should have had it framed and hung up over my desk, a perpetual admonition to me to do my work well; not too fast; not too much of it; not with any showy false polish; not letting anything go till I had done all I could to make it what it should be.

In telling this little story, I have told thousands of stories. Take the word hammer out of it, and put glue in its place, and you have the history of Peter Cooper. By putting in other words, you can make the true history of every great business in the world which has lasted thirty years.

The true "protective system," of which we hear so much, is to make the best article; and he who does this need not buy a ticket for Colorado.



Of all our manufactures few have had a more rapid development than wire-making. During the last thirty years the world has been girdled by telegraphic wires and cables, requiring an immense and continuous supply of the article. In New York alone two hundred pianos a week have been made, each containing miles of wire. There have been years during which a garment composed chiefly of wire was worn by nearly every woman in the land, even by the remotest and poorest.

Who has supplied all these millions of miles of wire? A large part of the answer to this question is given when we pronounce the name at the head of this article, Ichabod Washburn. In the last years of his life he had seven hundred men at Worcester making wire, the product of whose labor was increased a hundred fold by machinery which he had invented or adapted.

It is curious to note how he seemed to stumble into the business just in the nick of time. I say, seemed; but, in truth, he had been prepared for success in it by a long course of experience and training. He was a poor widow's son, born on the coast of Massachusetts, a few miles from Plymouth Rock; his father having died in early manhood, when this boy and a twin brother were two months old. His mother, suddenly left with three little children, and having no property except the house in which she lived, supported her family by weaving, in which her children from a very early age could give her some help. She kept them at school, however, during part of the winter, and instilled into their minds good principles. When this boy was nine years of age she was obliged, as the saying was, "to put him out to live" to a master five miles from her house.

On his way to his new home he was made to feel the difference between a hard master and a kind mother. Having a quick intelligent mind, he questioned the man concerning the objects they passed. At length the boy saw a windmill, and he asked what that was.

"Don't ask me so many questions, boy," answered the man, in a harsh, rough voice.

The little fellow was silenced, and he vividly remembered the event, the tone, and the scene, to old age. His employer was a maker of harness, carriages, and trunks, and it was the boy's business to take care of a horse and two cows, light fires, chop wood, run errands, and work in the shop. He never forgot the cold winter mornings, and the loud voice of his master rousing him from sleep to make the fire, and go out to the barn and get the milking done before daylight. His sleeping-place was a loft above the shop reached by a ladder. Being always a timid boy, he suffered extremely from fear in the dark and lonely garret of a building where no one else slept, and to which he had to grope his way alone.

What would the dainty boys of the present time think of going to mill on a frosty morning astride of a bag of corn on the horse's back, without stockings or shoes and with trousers half way up to the knees? On one occasion the little Ichabod was so thoroughly chilled that he had to stop at a house to get warm, and the good woman took pity on him, made him put on a pair of long black stockings, and a pair of her own shoes. Thus equipped, with his long black legs extending far out of his short trousers, and the woman's shoes lashed to his feet, he presented a highly ludicrous appearance, and one which, he thought, might have conveyed a valuable hint to his master. In the daytime he was usually employed in the shop making harnesses, a business in which he became expert. He served this man five years, or until he was fourteen years of age, when he made a complete harness for one of his cousins, which rendered excellent service for many years, and a part of it lasted almost as long as the maker.

Thus, at fourteen, he had completed his first apprenticeship, and had learned his first trade. The War of 1812 having given a sudden start to manufactures in this country, he went to work in a cotton factory for a while, where, for the first time in his life, he saw complicated machinery. Like a true Yankee as he was, he was strongly attracted by it, and proposed to learn the machinist's trade. His guardian opposed the scheme strongly, on the ground that, in all probability, by the time he had learned the trade the country would be so full of factories that there would be no more machinery required.

Thus discouraged, he did the next best thing: he went apprentice to the blacksmith's trade, near Worcester, where he was destined to spend the rest of his life. He was sixteen years of age when he began this second apprenticeship; but he was still one of the most timid and bashful of lads. In a fragment of autobiography found among his papers after his death he says:—

"I arrived at Worcester about one o'clock, at Syke's tavern where we were to dine; but the sight of the long table in the dining-room so overpowered my bashful spirit that I left the room and went into the yard without dinner to wait till the stage was ready."

On reaching his new home, eighty miles from his mother's house, he was so overcome by homesickness that, the first night, he sobbed himself to sleep. Soon he became interested in his shop and in his work, made rapid progress, and approved himself a skillful hand. Having been brought up to go to church every Sunday, he now hired a seat in the gallery of one of the churches at fifty cents a year, which he earned in over-time by forging pot-hooks. Every cent of his spending money was earned in similar ways. Once he made six toasting-irons, and carried them to Worcester, where he sold them for a dollar and a quarter each, taking a book in part payment. When his sister was married he made her a wedding present of a toasting-iron. Nor was it an easy matter for an apprentice then to do work in over-time, for he was expected to labor in his master's service from sunrise to sunset in the summer, and from sunrise to nine o'clock in the winter.

On a bright day in August, 1818, his twentieth birthday, he was out of his time, and, according to the custom of the period, he celebrated the joyful event by a game of ball! In a few months, having saved a little money, he went into business as a manufacturer of ploughs, in which he had some little success. But still yearning to know more of machinery he entered upon what we may call his third apprenticeship, in an armory near Worcester, where he soon acquired skill enough to do the finer parts of the work. Then he engaged in the manufacture of lead pipe, in which he attained a moderate success.

At length, in 1831, being then thirty-three years old, he began the business of making wire, in which he continued during the remainder of his active life. The making of wire, especially the finer and better kinds, is a nice operation. Until Ichabod Washburn entered into the business, wire of good quality was not made in the United States; and there was only one house in Great Britain that had the secret of making the steel wire for pianos, and they had had a monopoly of the manufacture for about eighty years.

Wire is made by drawing a rod of soft, hot iron through a hole which is too small for it. If a still smaller sized wire is desired, it is drawn through a smaller hole, and this process is repeated until the required size is attained. Considerable power is needed to draw the wire through, and the hole through which it is drawn is soon worn larger. The first wire machine that Washburn ever saw was arranged with a pair of self-acting pincers which drew a foot of wire and then had to let go and take a fresh hold. By this machine a man could make fifty pounds of coarse wire in a day. He soon improved this machine so that the pincers drew fifteen feet without letting go; and by this improvement alone the product of one man's labor was increased about eleven times. A good workman could make five or six hundred pounds a day by it. By another improvement which Washburn adopted the product was increased to twenty-five hundred pounds a day.

He was now in his element. He always had a partner to manage the counting-room part of the business, which he disliked.

"I never," said he, "had taste or inclination for it, always preferring to be among the machinery, doing the work and handling the tools I was used to, though oftentimes at the expense of a smutty face and greasy hands."

His masterpiece in the way of invention was his machinery for making steel wire for pianos,—a branch of the business which was urged upon him by the late Jonas Chickering, piano manufacturer, of Boston. The most careless glance at the strings of a piano shows us that the wire must be exquisitely tempered and most thoroughly wrought, in order to remain in tune, subjected as they are to a steady pull of many tons. Washburn experimented for years in perfecting his process, and he was never satisfied until he was able to produce a wire which he could honestly claim to be the best in the world. He had amazing success in his business. At one time he was making two hundred and fifty thousand yards of crinoline wire every day. His whole daily product was seven tons of iron wire, and five tons of steel wire.

This excellent man, in the midst of a success which would have dazzled and corrupted some men, retained all the simplicity, the modesty, and the generosity of his character. He felt, as he said, nowhere so much at home as among his own machinery, surrounded by thoughtful mechanics, dressed like them for work, and possibly with a black smudge upon his face. In his person, however, he was scrupulously clean and nice, a hater of tobacco and all other polluting things and lowering influences.

Rev. H. T. Cheever, the editor of his "Memorials," mentions also that he remained to the end of his life in the warmest sympathy with the natural desires of the workingman. He was a collector of facts concerning the condition of workingmen everywhere, and for many years cherished a project of making his own business a cooeperative one.

"He believed," remarks Mr. Cheever, "that the skilled and faithful manual worker, as well as the employer, was entitled to a participation in the net proceeds of business, over and above his actual wages. He held that in this country the entire people are one great working class, working with brains, or hands, or both, who should therefore act in harmony—the brain-workers and the hand-workers—for the equal rights of all, without distinction of color, condition, or religion. Holding that capital is accumulated labor, and wealth the creation of capital and labor combined, he thought it to be the wise policy of the large capitalists and corporations to help in the process of elevating and advancing labor by a proffered interest."

These were the opinions of a man who had had long experience in all the grades, from half-frozen apprentice to millionaire manufacturer.

He died in 1868, aged seventy-one years, leaving an immense estate; which, however, chiefly consisted in his wire-manufactory. He had made it a principle not to accumulate money for the sake of money, and he gave away in his lifetime a large portion of his revenue every year. He bequeathed to charitable associations the sum of four hundred and twenty-four thousand dollars, which was distributed among twenty-one objects. His great bequests were to institutions of practical and homely benevolence: to the Home for Aged Women and Widows, one hundred thousand dollars; to found a hospital and free dispensary, the same amount; smaller sums to industrial schools and mission schools.

It was one of his fixed convictions that boys cannot be properly fitted for life without being both taught and required to use their hands, as well as their heads, and it was long his intention to found some kind of industrial college. Finding that something of the kind was already in existence at Worcester, he made a bequest to it of one hundred and ten thousand dollars. The institution is called the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science.



Elihu Burritt, with whom we have all been familiar for many years as the Learned Blacksmith, was born in 1810 at the beautiful town of New Britain, in Connecticut, about ten miles from Hartford. He was the youngest son in an old-fashioned family of ten children. His father owned and cultivated a small farm; but spent the winters at the shoemaker's bench, according to the rational custom of Connecticut in that day. When Elihu was sixteen years of age, his father died and the lad soon after apprenticed himself to a blacksmith in his native village.

He was an ardent reader of books from childhood up; and he was enabled to gratify this taste by means of a small village library, which contained several books of history, of which he was naturally fond. This boy, however, was a shy, devoted student, brave to maintain what he thought right, but so bashful that he was known to hide in the cellar when his parents were going to have company.

As his father's long sickness had kept him out of school for some time, he was the more earnest to learn during his apprenticeship; particularly mathematics, since he desired to become, among other things, a good surveyor. He was obliged to work from ten to twelve hours a day at the forge; but while he was blowing the bellows he employed his mind in doing sums in his head. His biographer gives a specimen of these calculations which he wrought out without making a single figure:—

"How many yards of cloth, three feet in width, cut into strips an inch wide, and allowing half an inch at each end for the lap, would it require to reach from the centre of the earth to the surface, and how much would it all cost at a shilling a yard?"

He would go home at night with several of these sums done in his head, and report the results to an elder brother who had worked his way through Williams College. His brother would perform the calculations upon a slate, and usually found his answers correct.

When he was about half through his apprenticeship he suddenly took it into his head to learn Latin, and began at once through the assistance of the same elder brother. In the evenings of one winter he read the AEneid of Virgil; and, after going on for a while with Cicero and a few other Latin authors, he began Greek. During the winter months he was obliged to spend every hour of daylight at the forge, and even in the summer his leisure minutes were few and far between. But he carried his Greek grammar in his hat, and often found a chance, while he was waiting for a large piece of iron to get hot, to open his book with his black fingers, and go through a pronoun, an adjective or part of a verb, without being noticed by his fellow-apprentices.

So he worked his way until he was out of his time, when he treated himself to a whole quarter's schooling at his brother's school, where he studied mathematics, Latin and other languages. Then he went back to the forge, studying hard in the evenings at the same branches, until he had saved a little money; when he resolved to go to New Haven, and spend a winter in study. It was far from his thoughts, as it was from his means, to enter Yale College; but he seems to have had an idea that the very atmosphere of the college would assist him. He was still so timid that he determined to work his way without asking the least assistance from a professor or tutor.

He took lodgings at a cheap tavern in New Haven, and began the very next morning a course of heroic study. As soon as the fire was made in the sitting-room of the inn, which was at half-past four in the morning, he took possession, and studied German until breakfast-time, which was half-past seven. When the other boarders had gone to business, he sat down to Homer's Iliad, of which he knew nothing, and with only a dictionary to help him.

"The proudest moment of my life," he once wrote, "was when I had first gained the full meaning of the first fifteen lines of that noble work. I took a short triumphal walk in favor of that exploit."

Just before the boarders came back for their dinner, he put away all his Greek and Latin books, and took up a work in Italian, because it was less likely to attract the notice of the noisy crowd. After dinner he fell again upon his Greek, and in the evening read Spanish until bed-time. In this way he lived and labored for three months, a solitary student in the midst of a community of students; his mind imbued with the grandeurs and dignity of the past, while eating flapjacks and molasses at a poor tavern.

Returning to his home in New Britain, he obtained the mastership of an academy in a town near by: but he could not bear a life wholly sedentary; and, at the end of a year, abandoned his school and became what is called a "runner" for one of the manufacturers of New Britain. This business he pursued until he was about twenty-five years of age, when, tired of wandering, he came home again, and set up a grocery and provision store, in which he invested all the money he had saved. Soon came the commercial crash of 1837, and he was involved in the widespread ruin. He lost the whole of his capital, and had to begin the world anew.

He resolved to return to his studies in the languages of the East. Unable to buy or find the necessary books, he tied up his effects in a small handkerchief, and walked to Boston, one hundred miles distant, hoping there to find a ship in which he could work his passage across the ocean, and collect oriental works from port to port. He could not find a berth. He turned back, and walked as far as Worcester, where he found work, and found something else which he liked better. There is an Antiquarian Society at Worcester, with a large and peculiar library, containing a great number of books in languages not usually studied, such as the Icelandic, the Russian, the Celtic dialects, and others. The directors of the Society placed all their treasures at his command, and he now divided his time between hard study of languages and hard labor at the forge. To show how he passed his days, I will copy an entry or two from a private diary he then kept:—

"Monday, June 18. Headache; 40 pages Cuvier's Theory of the Earth; 64 pages French; 11 hours forging.

"Tuesday, June 19. 60 lines Hebrew; 30 pages French; 10 pages of Cuvier; 8 lines Syriac; 10 lines Danish; 10 lines Bohemian; 9 lines Polish; 15 names of stars; 10 hours forging.

"Wednesday, June 20. 25 lines Hebrew; 8 lines Syriac; 11 hours forging."

He spent five years at Worcester in such labors as these. When work at his trade became slack, or when he had earned a little more money than usual, he would spend more time in the library; but, on the other hand, when work in the shop was pressing, he could give less time to study. After a while, he began to think that he might perhaps earn his subsistence in part by his knowledge of languages, and thus save much waste of time and vitality at the forge. He wrote a letter to William Lincoln, of Worcester, who had aided and encouraged him; and in this letter he gave a short history of his life, and asked whether he could not find employment in translating some foreign work into English. Mr. Lincoln was so much struck with his letter that he sent it to Edward Everett, and he having occasion soon after to address a convention of teachers, read it to his audience as a wonderful instance of the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties. Mr. Everett prefaced it by saying that such a resolute purpose of improvement against such obstacles excited his admiration, and even his veneration.

"It is enough," he added, "to make one who has good opportunities for education hang his head in shame."

All this, including the whole of the letter, was published in the newspapers, with eulogistic comments, in which the student was spoken of as the Learned Blacksmith. The bashful scholar was overwhelmed with shame at finding himself suddenly famous. However, it led to his entering upon public life. Lecturing was then coming into vogue, and he was frequently invited to the platform. Accordingly, he wrote a lecture, entitled "Application and Genius," in which he endeavored to show that there is no such thing as genius, but that all extraordinary attainments are the results of application. After delivering this lecture sixty times in one season, he went back to his forge at Worcester, mingling study with labor in the old way.

On sitting down to write a new lecture for the following season, on the "Anatomy of the Earth," a certain impression was made upon his mind, which changed the current of his life. Studying the globe, he was impressed with the need that one nation has of other nations, and one zone of another zone; the tropics producing what assuages life in the northern latitudes, and northern lands furnishing the means of mitigating tropical discomforts. He felt that the earth was made for friendliness and cooeperation, not for fierce competition and bloody wars.

Under the influence of these feelings, his lecture became an eloquent plea for peace, and to this object his after life was chiefly devoted. The dispute with England upon the Oregon boundary induced him to go to England, with the design of traveling on foot from village to village, preaching peace, and exposing the horrors and folly of war. His addresses attracting attention, he was invited to speak to larger bodies, and, in short, he spent twenty years of his life as a lecturer upon peace, organizing Peace Congresses, advocating low uniform rates of ocean postage, and spreading abroad among the people of Europe the feeling which issued, at length, in the arbitration of the dispute between the United States and Great Britain; an event which posterity will, perhaps, consider the most important of this century. He heard Victor Hugo say at the Paris Congress of 1850:—

"A day will come when a cannon will be exhibited in public museums, just as an instrument of torture is now, and people will be amazed that such a thing could ever have been."

If he had sympathetic hearers, he produced upon them extraordinary effects. Nathaniel P. Rogers, one of the heroes of the Anti-slavery agitation, chanced to hear him in Boston in 1845 on his favorite subject of Peace. He wrote soon after:—

"I had been introduced to Elihu Burritt the day before, and was much interested in his original appearance, and desirous of knowing him further. I had not formed the highest opinion of his liberality. But on entering the hall my friends and I soon forgot everything but the speaker. The dim-lit hall, the handful audience, the contrast of both with the illuminated chapel and ocean multitude assembled overhead, bespeak painfully the estimation in which the great cause of peace is held in Christendom. I wish all Christendom could have heard Elihu Burritt's speech. One unbroken, unabated stream it was of profound and lofty and original eloquence. I felt riveted to my seat till he finished it. There was no oratory about it, in the ordinary sense of that word; no graces of elocution. It was mighty thoughts radiating off from his heated mind like the sparkles from the glowing steel on his own anvil, getting on as they come out what clothing of language they might, and thus having on the most appropriate and expressive imaginable. Not a waste word, nor a wanting one. And he stood and delivered himself in a simplicity and earnestness of attitude and gesture belonging to his manly and now honored and distinguished trade. I admired the touch of rusticity in his accent, amid his truly splendid diction, which betokened, as well as the vein of solid sense that ran entirely through his speech, that he had not been educated at the college. I thought of ploughman Burns as I listened to blacksmith Burritt. Oh! what a dignity and beauty labor imparts to learning."

Elihu Burritt spent the last years of his life upon a little farm which he had contrived to buy in his native town. He was never married, but lived with his sister and her daughters. He was not so very much richer in worldly goods than when he had started for Boston with his property wrapped in a small handkerchief. He died in March, 1879, aged sixty-nine years.



Literature in these days throws light into many an out-of-the-way corner. It is rapidly making us all acquainted with one another. A locomotive engineer in England has recently written a book upon his art, in order, as he says, "to communicate that species of knowledge which it is necessary for an engine-driver to possess who aspires to take high rank on the footplate!" He magnifies his office, and evidently regards the position of an engineer as highly enviable.

"It is very natural," he remarks, "for those who are unacquainted with locomotive driving to admire the life of an engine-man, and to imagine how very pleasant it must be to travel on the engine. But they do not think of the gradations by which alone the higher positions are reached; they see only on the express engine the picturesque side of the result of many years of patient observation and toil."

This passage was to me a revelation; for I had looked upon an engineer and his assistant with some compassion as well as admiration, and have often thought how extremely disagreeable it must be to travel on the engine as they do. Not so Michael Reynolds, the author of this book, who has risen from the rank of fireman to that of locomotive inspector on the London and Brighton railroad. He tells us that a model engineer "is possessed by a master passion—a passion for the monarch of speed." Such an engineer is distinguished, also, for his minute knowledge of the engine, and nothing makes him happier than to get some new light upon one of its numberless parts. So familiar is he with it that his ear detects the slightest variation in the beats of the machinery, and can tell the shocks and shakes which are caused by a defective road from those which are due to a defective engine. Even his nose acquires a peculiar sensitiveness. In the midst of so much heat, he can detect that which arises from friction before any mischief has been done. At every rate of speed he knows just how his engine ought to sound, shake, and smell.

Let us see how life passes on a locomotive, and what is the secret of success in the business of an engineer. The art of arts in engine-driving is the management of the fire. Every reader is aware that taking care of a fire is something in which few persons become expert. Most of us think that we ourselves possess the knack of it, but not another individual of our household agrees with us. Now, a man born with a genius for managing a locomotive is one who has a high degree of the fire-making instinct. Mr. Reynolds distinctly says that a man may be a good mechanic, may have even built locomotives, and yet, if he is not a good "shovel-man," if he does not know how to manage his fire, he will never rise to distinction in his profession. The great secret is to build the fire so that the whole mass of fuel will ignite and burn freely without the use of the blower, and so bring the engine to the train with a fire that will last. When we see an engine blowing off steam furiously at the beginning of the trip, we must not be surprised if the train reaches the first station behind time, since it indicates a fierce, thin fire, that has been rapidly ignited by the blower. An accomplished engineer backs his engine to the train without any sign of steam or smoke, but with a fire so strong and sound that he can make a run of fifty miles in an hour without touching it.

The engineer, it appears, if he has an important run to make, comes to his engine an hour before starting. His first business, on an English railroad, is to read the notices, posted up in the engine house, of any change in the condition of the road requiring special care. His next duty is to inspect his engine in every part: first, to see if there is water enough in the boiler, and that the fire is proceeding properly; then, that he has the necessary quantity of water and coal in the tender. He next gets into the pit under his engine, with the proper tools, and inspects every portion of it, trying every nut and pin within his reach from below. Then he walks around the engine, and particularly notices if the oiling apparatus is exactly adjusted. Some parts require, for example, four drops of oil every minute, and he must see that the apparatus is set so as to yield just that quantity. He is also to look into his tool-box, and see if every article is in its place. Mr. Reynolds enumerates twenty-two objects which a good engineer will always have within his reach, such as fire implements of various kinds, machinist tools, lamps of several sorts, oiling vessels, a quantity of flax and yarn, copper wire, a copy of the rules and his time-table; all of which, are to be in the exact place designed for them, so that they can be snatched in a moment.

One of the chief virtues of the engineer and his companion, the fireman, is one which we are not accustomed to associate with their profession; and that is cleanliness. On this point our author grows eloquent, and he declares that a clean engineer is almost certain to be an excellent one in every particular. The men upon a locomotive cannot, it is true, avoid getting black smudge upon their faces. The point is that both the men and their engines should be clean in all the essential particulars, so that all the faculties of the men and all the devices of the engine shall work with ease and certainty.

"There is something," he remarks, "so very degrading about dirt, that even a poor beast highly appreciates clean straw. Cleanliness hath a charm that hideth a multitude of faults, and it is not difficult to trace a connection between habitual cleanliness and a respect for general order, for punctuality, for truthfulness, for all placed in authority."

Do you mark that sentence, reader? The spirit of the Saxon race speaks in those lines. You observe that this author ranks among the virtues "a respect for all placed in authority." That, of course, may be carried too far; nevertheless, the strong races, and the worthy men of all races, do cherish a respect for lawful authority. A good soldier is proud to salute his officer.

On some English railroads both engineers and engines are put to tests much severer than upon roads elsewhere. Between Holyhead and Chester, a distance of ninety-seven miles, the express trains run without stopping, and they do this with so little strain that an engine performed the duty every day for several years. A day's work of some crack engineers is to run from London to Crewe and back again in ten hours, a distance of three hundred and thirty miles, stopping only at Rugby for three minutes on each trip. There are men who perform this service every working day the whole year through, without a single delay. This is a very great achievement, and can only be done by engineers of the greatest skill and steadiness. It was long, indeed, before any man could do it, and even now there are engineers who dare not take the risk. On the Hudson River road some of the trains run from New York to Poughkeepsie, eighty miles, without stopping, but not every engineer could do it at first, and very often a train stopped at Peekskill to take in water. The water is the difficulty, and the good engineer is one who wastes no water and no coal.

Mr. Reynolds enumerates all the causes of accidents from the engine, many of which cannot be understood by the uninitiated. As we read them over, and see in how many ways an engine can go wrong, we wonder that a train ever arrives at its journey's end in safety. At the conclusion of this formidable list, the author confesses that it is incomplete, and notifies young engineers that nobody can teach them the innermost secrets of the engine. Some of these, he remarks, require "years of study," and even then they remain in some degree mysterious. Nevertheless, he holds out to ambition the possibility of final success, and calls upon young men to concentrate all their energies upon the work.

"Self-reliance," he says, "is a grand element of character: it has won Olympic crowns and Isthmian laurels; it confers kinship with men who have vindicated their divine right to be held in the world's memory. Let the master passion of the soul evoke undaunted energy in pursuit of the attainment of one end, aiming for the highest in the spirit of the lowest, prompted by the burning thought of reward, which sooner or later will come."

We perceive that Michael Reynolds possesses one of the prime requisites of success: he believes in the worth and dignity of his vocation; and in writing this little book he has done something to elevate it in the regard of others. To judge from some of his directions, I should suppose that engineers in England are not, as a class, as well educated or as intelligent as ours. Locomotive engineers in the United States rank very high in intelligence and respectability of character.



I advise people who desire, above all things, to have a comfortable time in the world to be good conservatives. Do as other people do, think as other people think, swim with the current—that is the way to glide pleasantly down the stream of life. But mark, O you lovers of inglorious ease, the men who are remembered with honor after they are dead do not do so! They sometimes breast the current, and often have a hard time of it, with the water splashing back in their faces, and the easy-going crowd jeering at them as they pant against the tide.

This valiant, stalwart Puritan, Major Robert Pike, of Salisbury, Massachusetts, who was born in 1616, the year in which Shakespeare died, is a case in point. Salisbury, in the early day, was one of the frontier towns of Massachusetts, lying north of the Merrimac River, and close to the Atlantic Ocean. For fifty years it was a kind of outpost of that part of the State. It lay right in the path by which the Indians of Maine and Canada were accustomed to slink down along the coast, often traveling on the sands of the beaches, and burst upon the settlements. During a long lifetime Major Pike was a magistrate and personage in that town, one of the leading spirits, upon whom the defense of the frontier chiefly devolved.

Others were as brave as he in fighting Indians. Many a man could acquit himself valiantly in battle who would not have the courage to differ from the public opinion of his community. But on several occasions, when Massachusetts was wrong, Major Pike was right; and he had the courage sometimes to resist the current of opinion when it was swollen into a raging torrent. He opposed, for example, the persecution of the Quakers, which is such a blot upon the records both of New England and old England. We can imagine what it must have cost to go against this policy by a single incident, which occurred in the year 1659 in Robert Pike's own town of Salisbury.

On a certain day in August, Thomas Macy was caught in a violent storm of rain, and hurried home drenched to the skin. He found in his house four wayfarers, who had also come in for shelter. His wife being sick in bed, no one had seen or spoken to them. They asked him how far it was to Casco Bay. From their dress and demeanor he thought they might be Quakers, and, as it was unlawful to harbor persons of that sect, he asked them to go on their way, since he feared to give offense in entertaining them. As soon as the worst of the storm was over, they left, and he never saw them again. They were in his house about three quarters of an hour, during which he said very little to them, having himself come home wet, and found his wife sick.

He was summoned to Boston, forty miles distant, to answer for this offense. Being unable to walk, and not rich enough to buy a horse, he wrote to the General Court, relating the circumstances, and explaining his non-appearance. He was fined thirty shillings, and ordered to be admonished by the governor. He paid his fine, received his reprimand, and removed to the island of Nantucket, of which he was the first settler, and for some time the only white inhabitant.

During this period of Quaker persecution, Major Pike led the opposition to it in Salisbury, until, at length, William Penn prevailed upon Charles II. to put an end to it in all his dominions. If the history of that period had not been so carefully recorded in official documents, we could scarcely believe to what a point the principle of authority was then carried. One of the laws which Robert Pike dared openly to oppose made it a misdemeanor for any one to exhort on Sunday who had not been regularly ordained. He declared that the men who voted for that law had broken their oaths, for they had sworn on taking their seats to enact nothing against the just liberty of Englishmen. For saying this he was pronounced guilty of "defaming" the legislature, and he was sentenced to be disfranchised, disabled from holding any public office, bound to good behavior, and fined twenty marks, equal to about two hundred dollars in our present currency.

Petitions were presented to the legislature asking the remission of the severe sentence. But even this was regarded as a criminal offense, and proceedings were instituted against every signer. A few acknowledged that the signing was an offense, and asked the forgiveness of the court, but all the rest were required to give bonds for their appearance to answer.

Another curious incident shows the rigor of the government of that day. According to the Puritan law, Sunday began at sunset on Saturday evening, and ended at sunset on Sunday evening. During the March thaw of 1680, Major Pike had occasion to go to Boston, then a journey of two days. Fearing that the roads were about to break up, he determined to start on Sunday evening, get across the Merrimac, which was then a matter of difficulty during the melting of the ice, and make an early start from the other side of the river on Monday morning. The gallant major being, of course, a member of the church, and very religious, went to church twice that Sunday. Now, as to what followed, I will quote the testimony of an eye-witness, his traveling companion:—

"I do further testify that, though it was pretty late ere Mr. Burrows (the clergyman) ended his afternoon's exercise, yet did the major stay in his daughter's house till repetition of both forenoon and afternoon sermons was over, and the duties of the day concluded with prayer; and, after a little stay, to be sure the sun was down, then we mounted, and not till then. The sun did indeed set in a cloud, and after we were mounted, I do remember the major spake of lightening up where the sun set; but I saw no sun."

A personal enemy of the major's brought a charge against him of violating the holy day by starting on his journey before the setting of the sun. The case was brought for trial, and several witnesses were examined. The accuser testified that "he did see Major Robert Pike ride by his house toward the ferry upon the Lord's day when the sun was about half an hour high." Another witness confirmed this. Another testified:—

"The sun did indeed set in a cloud, and, a little after the major was mounted, there appeared a light where the sun went down, which soon vanished again, possibly half a quarter of an hour."

Nevertheless, there were two witnesses who declared that the sun was not down when the major mounted, and so this worthy gentleman, then sixty-four years of age, a man of honorable renown in the commonwealth, was convicted of "profaning the Sabbath," fined ten shillings, and condemned to pay costs and fees, which were eight shillings more. He paid his fine, and was probably more careful during the rest of his life to mount on Sunday evenings by the almanac.

The special glory of this man's life was his steadfast and brave opposition to the witchcraft mania of 1692. This deplorable madness was in New England a mere transitory panic, from which the people quickly recovered; but while it lasted it almost silenced opposition, and it required genuine heroism to lift a voice against it. No country of Europe was free from the delusion during that century, and some of its wisest men were carried away by it. The eminent judge, Sir William Blackstone, in his "Commentaries," published in 1765, used this language:—

"To deny the existence of witchcraft is to flatly contradict the revealed word of God, and the thing itself is a truth to which every nation has in its turn borne testimony."

This was the conviction of that age, and hundreds of persons were executed for practicing witchcraft. In Massachusetts, while the mania lasted, fear blanched every face and haunted every house.

It was the more perilous to oppose the trials because there was a mingling of personal malevolence in the fell business, and an individual who objected was in danger of being himself accused. No station, no age, no merit, was a sufficient protection. Mary Bradbury, seventy-five years of age, the wife of one of the leading men of Salisbury, a woman of singular excellence and dignity of character, was among the convicted. She was a neighbor of Major Pike's, and a life-long friend.

In the height of the panic he addressed to one of the judges an argument against the trials for witchcraft which is one of the most ingenious pieces of writing to be found among the documents of that age. The peculiarity of it is that the author argues on purely Biblical grounds; for he accepted the whole Bible as authoritative, and all its parts as equally authoritative, from Genesis to Revelation. His main point was that witchcraft, whatever it may be, cannot be certainly proved against any one. The eye, he said, may be deceived; the ear may be; and all the senses. The devil himself may take the shape and likeness of a person or thing, when it is not that person or thing. The truth on the subject, he held, lay out of the range of mortal ken.

"And therefore," he adds, "I humbly conceive that, in such a difficulty, it may be more safe, for the present, to let a guilty person live till further discovery than to put an innocent person to death."

Happily this mania speedily passed, and troubled New England no more. Robert Pike lived many years longer, and died in 1706, when he was nearly ninety-one years of age. He was a farmer, and gained a considerable estate, the whole of which he gave away to his heirs before his death. The house in which he lived is still standing in the town of Salisbury, and belongs to his descendants; for on that healthy coast men, families, and houses decay very slowly. James S. Pike, one of his descendants, the well-remembered "J. S. P." of the "Tribune's" earlier day, and now an honored citizen of Maine, has recently written a little book about this ancient hero who assisted to set his fellow-citizens right when they were going wrong.



It is supposed that the oldest clock in existence is one in the ancient castle of Dover, on the southern coast of England, bearing the date, 1348. It has been running, therefore, five hundred and thirty-six years. Other clocks of the same century exist in various parts of Europe, the works of which have but one hand, which points the hour, and require winding every twenty-four hours. From the fact of so many large clocks of that period having been preserved in whole or in part, it is highly probable that the clock was then an old invention.

But how did people measure time during the countless ages that rolled away before the invention of the clock? The first time-measurer was probably a post stuck in the ground, the shadow of which, varying in length and direction, indicated the time of day, whenever the sun was not obscured by clouds. The sun-dial, which was an improvement upon this, was known to the ancient Jews and Greeks. The ancient Chinese and Egyptians possessed an instrument called the Clepsydra (water-stealer), which was merely a vessel full of water with a small hole in the bottom by which the water slowly escaped. There were marks in the inside of the vessel which showed the hour. An improvement upon this was made about two hundred and thirty-five years before Christ by an Egyptian, who caused the escaping water to turn a system of wheels; and the motion was communicated to a rod which pointed to the hours upon a circle resembling a clock-face. Similar clocks were made in which sand was used instead of water. The hour-glass was a time-measurer for many centuries in Europe, and all the ancient literatures abound in allusions to the rapid, unobserved, running away of its sands.

The next advance was the invention of the wheel-and-weight-clock, such as has been in use ever since. The first instrument of this kind may have been made by the ancients; but no clear allusion to its existence has been discovered earlier than 996, when Pope Sylvester II. is known to have had one constructed. It was Christian Huygens, the famous Dutch philosopher, who applied, in 1658, the pendulum to the clock, and thus led directly to those more refined and subtle improvements, which render our present clocks and watches among the least imperfect of all human contrivances.

George Graham, the great London clock-maker of Queen Anne's and George the First's time, and one of the most noted improvers of the clock, was born in 1675. After spending the first thirteen years of his life in a village in the North of England, he made his way to London, an intelligent and well-bred Quaker boy; and there he was so fortunate as to be taken as an apprentice by Tompion, then the most celebrated clock-maker in England, whose name is still to be seen upon ancient watches and clocks. Tompion was a most exquisite mechanic, proud of his work and jealous of his name. He is the Tompion who figured in Farquhar's play of "The Inconstant;" and Prior mentions him in his "Essay on Learning," where he says that Tompion on a watch or clock was proof positive of its excellence. A person once brought him a watch to repair, upon which his name had been fraudulently engraved. He took up a hammer and smashed it, and then selecting one of his own watches, gave it to the astonished customer, saying: "Sir, here is a watch of my making."

Graham was worthy to be the apprentice of such a master, for he not only showed intelligence, skill, and fidelity, but a happy turn for invention. Tompion became warmly attached to him, treated him as a son, gave him the full benefit of his skill and knowledge, took him into partnership, and finally left him sole possessor of the business. For nearly half a century George Graham, Clock-maker, was one of the best known signs in Fleet Street, and the instruments made in his shop were valued in all the principal countries of Europe. The great clock at Greenwich Observatory, made by him one hundred and fifty years ago, is still in use and could hardly now be surpassed in substantial excellence. The mural arch in the same establishment, used for the testing of quadrants and other marine instruments, was also his work. When the French government sent Maupertuis within the polar circle, to ascertain the exact figure of the earth, it was George Graham, Clock-maker of Fleet Street, who supplied the requisite instruments.

But it was not his excellence as a mechanic that causes his name to be remembered at the present time. He made two capital inventions in clock-machinery which are still universally used, and will probably never be superseded. It was a common complaint among clock-makers, when he was a young man, that the pendulum varied in length according to the temperature, and consequently caused the clock to go too slowly in hot weather, and too fast in cold. Thus, if a clock went correctly at a temperature of sixty degrees, it would lose three seconds a day if the temperature rose to seventy, and three more seconds a day for every additional ten degrees of heat. Graham first endeavored to rectify this inconvenience by making the pendulum of several different kinds of metal, which was a partial remedy. But the invention by which he overcame the difficulty completely, consisted in employing a column of mercury as the "bob" of the pendulum. The hot weather, which lengthened the steel rods, raised the column of mercury, and so brought the centre of oscillation higher. If the column of mercury was of the right length, the lengthening or the shortening of the pendulum was exactly counterbalanced, and the variation of the clock, through changes of the temperature, almost annihilated.

This was a truly exquisite invention. The clock he himself made on this plan for Greenwich, after being in use a century and a half, requires attention not oftener than once in fifteen months. Some important discoveries in astronomy are due to the exactness with which Graham's clock measures time. He also invented what is called the "dead escapement," still used, I believe, in all clocks and watches, from the commonest five-dollar watch to the most elaborate and costly regulator. Another pretty invention of his was a machine for showing the position and motions of the heavenly bodies, which was exceedingly admired by our grandfathers. Lord Orrery having amused himself by copying this machine, a French traveler who saw it complimented the maker by naming it an Orrery, which has led many to suppose it to have been an invention of that lord. It now appears, however, that the true inventor was the Fleet Street clock-maker.

The merits of this admirable mechanic procured for him, while he was still little more than a young man, the honor of being elected a member of the Royal Society, the most illustrious scientific body in the world. And a very worthy member he proved. If the reader will turn to the Transactions of that learned society, he may find in them twenty-one papers contributed by George Graham. He was, however, far from regarding himself as a philosopher, but to the end of his days always styled himself a clock-maker.

They still relate an anecdote showing the confidence he had in his work. A gentleman who bought a watch of him just before departing for India, asked him how far he could depend on its keeping the correct time.

"Sir," replied Graham, "it is a watch which I have made and regulated myself; take it with you wherever you please. If after seven years you come back to see me, and can tell me there has been a difference of five minutes, I will return you your money."

Seven years passed, and the gentleman returned.

"Sir," said he, "I bring you back your watch."

"I remember," said Graham, "our conditions. Let me see the watch. Well, what do you complain of?"

"Why," was the reply, "I have had it seven years, and there is a difference of more than five minutes."

"Indeed!" said Graham. "In that case I return you your money."

"I would not part with my watch," said the gentleman, "for ten times the sum I paid for it."

"And I," rejoined Graham, "would not break my word for any consideration."

He insisted on taking back the watch, which ever after he used as a regulator.

This is a very good story, and is doubtless substantially true; but no watch was ever yet made which has varied as little as five minutes in seven years. Readers may remember that the British government once offered a reward of twenty thousand pounds sterling for the best chronometer, and the prize was awarded to Harrison for a chronometer which varied two minutes in a sailing voyage from England to Jamaica and back.

George Graham died in 1751, aged seventy-six years, universally esteemed as an ornament of his age and country. In Westminster Abbey, among the tombs of poets, philosophers, and statesmen, may be seen the graves of the two clock-makers, master and apprentice, Tompion and Graham.



He was first a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter, born and reared in English Yorkshire, in a village too insignificant to appear on any but a county map. Faulby is about twenty miles from York, and there John Harrison was born in 1693, when William and Mary reigned in England. He was thirty-five years of age before he was known beyond his own neighborhood. He was noted there, however, for being a most skillful workman. There is, perhaps, no trade in which the degrees of skill are so far apart as that of carpenter. The difference is great indeed between the clumsy-fisted fellow who knocks together a farmer's pig-pen, and the almost artist who makes a dining-room floor equal to a piece of mosaic. Dr. Franklin speaks with peculiar relish of one of his young comrades in Philadelphia, as "the most exquisite joiner" he had ever known.

It was not only in carpentry that John Harrison reached extraordinary skill and delicacy of stroke. He became an excellent machinist, and was particularly devoted from an early age to clock-work. He was a student also in the science of the day. A contemporary of Newton, he made himself capable of understanding the discoveries of that great man, and of following the Transactions of the Royal Society in mathematics, astronomy, and natural philosophy.

Clock-work, however, was his ruling taste as a workman, for many years, and he appears to have set before him as a task the making of a clock that should surpass all others. He says in one of his pamphlets that, in the year 1726, when he was thirty-three years of age, he finished two large pendulum clocks which, being placed in different houses some distance apart, differed from each other only one second in a month. He also says that one of his clocks, which he kept for his own use, the going of which he compared with a fixed star, varied from the true time only one minute in ten years.

Modern clock-makers are disposed to deride these extraordinary claims, particularly those of Paris and Switzerland. We know, however, that John Harrison was one of the most perfect workmen that ever lived, and I find it difficult to believe that a man whose works were so true could be false in his words.

In perfecting these amateur clocks he made a beautiful invention, the principle of which is still employed in other machines besides clock-work. Like George Graham, he observed that the chief cause of irregularity in a well-made clock was the varying length of the pendulum, which in warm weather expanded and became a little longer, and in cold weather became shorter. He remedied this by the invention of what is often called the gridiron pendulum, made of several bars of steel and brass, and so arranged as to neutralize and correct the tendency of the pendulum to vary in length. Brass is very sensitive to changes of temperature, steel much less so; and hence it is not difficult to arrange the pendulum so that the long exterior bars of steel shall very nearly curb the expansion and contraction of the shorter brass ones.

While he was thus perfecting himself in obscurity, the great world was in movement also, and it was even stimulating his labors, as well as giving them their direction.

The navigation of the ocean was increasing every year in importance, chiefly through the growth of the American colonies and the taste for the rich products of India. The art of navigation was still imperfect. In order that the captain of a ship at sea may know precisely where he is, he must know two things: how far he is from the equator, and how far he is from a certain known place, say Greenwich, Paris, Washington. Being sure of those two things, he can take his chart and mark upon it the precise spot where his ship is at a given moment. Then he knows how to steer, and all else that he needs to know in order to pursue his course with confidence.

When John Harrison was a young man, the art of navigation had so far advanced that the distance from the equator, or the latitude, could be ascertained with certainty by observation of the heavenly bodies. One great difficulty remained to be overcome—the finding of the longitude. This was done imperfectly by means of a watch which kept Greenwich time as near as possible. Every fine day the captain could ascertain by an observation of the sun just when it was twelve o'clock. If, on looking at this chronometer, he found that by Greenwich time it was quarter past two, he could at once ascertain his distance from Greenwich, or in other words, his longitude.

But the terrible question was, how near right is the chronometer? A variation of a very few minutes would make a difference of more than a hundred miles.

To this day, no perfect time-keeper has ever been made. From an early period, the governments of commercial nations were solicitous to find a way of determining the longitude that would be sufficiently correct. Thus, the King of Spain, in 1598, offered a reward of a thousand crowns to any one who should discover an approximately correct method. Soon after, the government of Holland offered ten thousand florins. In 1714 the English government took hold of the matter, and offered a series of dazzling prizes: Five thousand pounds for a chronometer that would enable a ship six months from home to get her longitude within sixty miles; seven thousand five hundred pounds, if within forty miles; ten thousand pounds if within thirty miles. Another clause of the bill offered a premium of twenty thousand pounds for the invention of any method whatever, by means of which the longitude could be determined within thirty miles. The bill appears to have been drawn somewhat carelessly; but the substance of it was sufficiently plain, namely, that the British Government was ready to make the fortune of any man who should enable navigators to make their way across the ocean in a straight line to their desired port.

Two years after, the Regent of France offered a prize of a hundred thousand francs for the same object.

All the world went to watch-making. John Harrison, stimulated by these offers to increased exertion, in the year 1736 presented himself at Greenwich with one of his wonderful clocks, provided with the gridiron pendulum, which he exhibited and explained to the commissioners. Perceiving the merit and beauty of his invention, they placed the clock on board a ship bound for Lisbon. This was subjecting a pendulum clock to a very unfair trial; but it corrected the ship's reckoning several miles. The commissioners now urged him to compete for the chronometer prize, and in order to enable him to do so they supplied him with money, from time to time, for twenty-four years. At length he produced his chronometer, about four inches in diameter, and so mounted as not to share the motion of the vessel.

In 1761, when he was sixty-eight years of age, he wrote to the commissioners that he had completed a chronometer for trial, and requested them to test it on a voyage to the West Indies, under the care of his son William. His requests were granted. The success of the chronometer was wonderful. On arriving at Jamaica, the chronometer varied but four seconds from Greenwich time, and on returning to England the entire variation was a little short of two minutes; which was equivalent to a longitudinal variation of eighteen miles. The ship had been absent from Portsmouth one hundred and forty-seven days.

This signal triumph was won after forty years of labor and experiment. The commissioners demanding another trial, the watch was taken to Barbadoes, and, after an absence of a hundred and fifty-six days, showed a variation of only fifteen seconds. After other and very exacting tests, it was decided that John Harrison had fulfilled all the prescribed conditions, and he received accordingly the whole sum of twenty thousand pounds sterling.

It is now asserted by experts that he owed the success of his watch, not so much to originality of invention, as to the exquisite skill and precision of his workmanship. He had one of the most perfect mechanical hands that ever existed. It was the touch of a Raphael applied to mechanism.

John Harrison lived to the good old age of eighty-three years. He died in London in 1776, about the time when General Washington was getting ready to drive the English troops and their Tory friends out of Boston. It is not uncommon nowadays for a ship to be out four or five months, and to hit her port so exactly as to sail straight into it without altering her course more than a point or two.



A story is told of the late Ralph Waldo Emerson's first lecture, in Cincinnati, forty years ago. A worthy pork-packer, who was observed to listen with close attention to the enigmatic utterances of the sage, was asked by one of his friends what he thought of the performance.

"I liked it very well," said he, "and I'm glad I went, because I learned from it how the Boston people pronounce Faneuil Hall."

He was perhaps mistaken, for it is hardly probable that Mr. Emerson gave the name in the old-fashioned Boston style, which was a good deal like the word funnel. The story, however, may serve to show what a widespread and intense reputation the building has. Of all the objects in Boston it is probably the one best known to the people of the United States, and the one surest to be visited by the stranger. The Hall is a curious, quaint little interior, with its high galleries, and its collection of busts and pictures of Revolutionary heroes. Peter Faneuil little thought what he was doing when he built it, though he appears to have been a man of liberal and enlightened mind.

The Faneuils were prosperous merchants in the French city of Rochelle in 1685, when Louis XIV. revoked the Edict of Nantes. The great-grandfather of John Jay was also in large business there at that time, and so were the ancestors of our Delanceys, Badeaus, Pells, Secors, Allaires, and other families familiar to the ears of New Yorkers, many of them having distinguished living representatives among us. They were of the religion "called Reformed," as the king of France contemptuously styled it. Reformed or not, they were among the most intelligent, enterprising, and wealthy of the merchants of Rochelle.

How little we can conceive the effect upon their minds of the order which came from Paris in October, 1685, which was intended to put an end forever to the Protestant religion in France. The king meant to make thorough work of it. He ordered all the Huguenot churches in the kingdom to be instantly demolished. He forbade the dissenters to assemble either in a building or out of doors, on pain of death and confiscation of all their goods. Their clergymen were required to leave the kingdom within fifteen days. Their schools were interdicted, and all children hereafter born of Protestant parents were to be baptized by the Catholic clergymen, and reared as Catholics.

These orders were enforced with reckless ferocity, particularly in the remoter provinces and cities of the kingdom. The Faneuils, the Jays, and the Delanceys of that renowned city saw their house of worship leveled with the ground. Dragoons were quartered in their houses, whom they were obliged to maintain, and to whose insolence they were obliged to submit, for the troops were given to understand that they were the king's enemies and had no rights which royal soldiers were bound to respect. At the same time, the edict forbade them to depart from the kingdom, and particular precautions were taken to prevent men of capital from doing so.

John Jay records that the ancestor of his family made his escape by artifice, and succeeded in taking with him a portion of his property. Such was also the good fortune of the brothers Faneuil, who were part of the numerous company from old Rochelle who emigrated to New York about 1690, and formed a settlement upon Long Island Sound, twelve miles from New York, which they named, and which is still called, New Rochelle. The old names can still be read in that region, both in the churchyards and upon the door plates, and the village of Pelham recalls the name of the Pell family who fled from Rochelle about the same time, and obtained a grant of six thousand acres of land near by. The newcomers were warmly welcomed, as their friends and relations were in England.

The Faneuil brothers did not remain long in New Rochelle, but removed to Boston in 1691. Benjamin and Andrew were their names. There are many traces of them in the early records, indicating that they were merchants of large capital and extensive business for that day. There are evidences also that they were men of intelligence and public spirit. They appear to have been members of the Church of England in Boston, which of itself placed them somewhat apart from the majority of their fellow-citizens.

Peter Faneuil, the builder of the famous Hall, who was born in Boston about 1701, the oldest of eleven children, succeeded to the business founded by his uncle Andrew, and while still a young man had greatly increased it, and was reckoned one of the leading citizens.

A curious controversy had agitated the people of Boston for many years. The town had existed for nearly a century without having a public market of any kind, the country people bringing in their produce and selling it from door to door. In February, 1717, occurred the Great Snow, which destroyed great numbers of domestic and wild animals, and caused provisions for some weeks to be scarce and dear. The inhabitants laid the blame of the dearness to the rapacity of the hucksters, and the subject being brought up in town meeting, a committee reported that the true remedy was to build a market, to appoint market days, and establish rules. The farmers opposed the scheme, as did also many of the citizens. The project being defeated, it was revived year after year, but the country people always contrived to defeat it. An old chronicler has a quaint passage on the subject.

"The country people," he says, "always opposed the market, so that the question could not be settled. The reason they give for it is, that if market days were appointed, all the country people coming in at the same time would glut it, and the towns-people would buy their provisions for what they pleased; so rather choose to send them as they think fit. And sometimes a tall fellow brings in a turkey or goose to sell, and will travel through the whole town to see who will give most for it, and it is at last sold for three and six pence or four shillings; and if he had stayed at home, he could have earned a crown by his labor, which is the customary price for a day's work. So any one may judge of the stupidity of the country people."

In Boston libraries, pamphlets are still preserved on this burning question of a market, which required seventeen years of discussion before a town meeting was brought to vote for the erection of market houses. In 1734, seven hundred pounds were appropriated for the purpose. The market hours were fixed from sunrise to 1 P. M., and a bell was ordered to be rung to announce the time of opening. The country people, however, had their way, notwithstanding. They so resolutely refrained from attending the markets that in less than four years the houses fell into complete disuse. One of the buildings was taken down, and the timber used in constructing a workhouse; one was turned into stores, and the third was torn to pieces by a mob, who carried off the material for their own use.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse